I’ve been a librarian for over five years, and have fought like a maniac to keep libraries in NYC open. Money has been scarce in NY for a long time, and library budgets are only just starting to level out. My system had some very un-fun layoff scares (while some systems have had actual layoffs), stunted hours, lack of materials, and massive staff shortages. To combat this, my colleagues and I have stayed up all night reading, dressed up as zombies and lumbered over the Brooklyn Bridge, and took part in a number of other tactics to help keep NYC libraries open and staffed. I really believe in the power of libraries and how they can transform lives and communities, but hey, when someone has a super good idea on how to save us all some money, I’m all ears. The super-good-idea haver is one Tim Worstall and he’s really knocking it out of the park with his idea to just shut down those dusty, ghost-town book depositories we call libraries and replace them with unlimited Kindle subscriptions for everyone!

Tim Worstall, bringing the noise and the funk, concurrently.

Tim Worstall, bringing the noise and the funk, concurrently.

Says Worstall:

More titles, easier access and quite possibly a saving of public funds. Why wouldn’t we simply junk the physical libraries and purchase an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription for the entire country?

I can’t argue with logic, can you? I don’t know about everybody else, but I think it’s time to just start converting these libraries in fro-yo places and just getting on with it already.

Now, maybe I’m kinda a Ludite, so you might have to explain this to me, but Amazon Kindle subscriptions are more than just books, right? I mean, yeah, you can get e-books and audiobooks and stuff, but it does tons more, correct?

Like, for example, the Kindle sits your kids down teaches them how to code, right? In a sort of fun, accessible, hands-on manner? And helps those same kids to learn how to invest their money? And provides activities for kids with a variety of abilities? And makes sure that kids who need free meals have them during the summer?

And Amazon provides a safe place for kids to go after school, no? Just like a safe haven they can go to until their parents pick them up. I might be wrong, but while the kids are somehow safely ensconced inside the Kindle, Amazon employees provide them with a free computer and WiFi use and research/homework assistance. I think.

And it’s not just for adults. Where many organizations and search engines fail, Kindle is there for your specialized research needs.

And in the case of a natural disaster, where you might lose your belongings and your home and have no access to WiFi and other resources, Amazon totally has your back, right?

One of the nicer things that the Kindle subscription does is help you find jobs. Thanks, Amazon!

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but Amazon is extremely supportive of the homeless community.

And if you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon will totally lend you a free Kindle. No problem. Amazon understands that you don’t have money for a Kindle!

I mean, if this unlimited Kindle subscription can not only lend us books, but provide safe places for our kids, educate us, help close the digital divide, provide specialized research assistance, help us in natural disasters, find us jobs, help the homeless population AND lend us free Kindles, then, well damn. I, for one, welcome our Amazon overlords.

Thanks, Tim Worstall! You’re the Best-all.

Oh, and one more thing, just as a little reminder:

I was just joking this whole time. Libraries are so much more than books, while Kindles, which are pretty OK, are *only* books. Thanks for listening.

I was just joking this whole time. Libraries are so much more than books, while Kindles, which are pretty OK, are *only* books. Thanks for listening.

~Love and Kindles…Libraries, Ingrid

P.S. Feel free to add your own reasons why libraries can offer so much more than an e-book subscription ever could.

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About magpielibrarian

Youth Services Librarian, Mediocre Crafter, Urban Magpie, Glitter Addict, and Worshiper of Ridiculous Outfits, Emerging Leader 2012, Former Rainbow Book List Member, and GLBT RT Director-at-Large! This is what a librarian looks like, kids.

45 responses »

  1. Monica says:

    Kindles also help with job hunting and did you know, they are self-teaching! Actually, I joke, because every single person in the world knows how to work all technology, so that isn’t even necessary!

  2. […] I've been a librarian for over five years, and have fought like a maniac to keep libraries in NYC open. Money has been scarce in NY for a long time, and library budgets are only just starting to le…  […]

  3. This is the best response! Flipping it around and showing how idiotic this ‘argument’ is without even engaging the author, which is what he wants. Thanks Ingrid! This nailed it not just for this guy but for every other article like this!

  4. jccohen14850 says:

    Even his financials are wrong. Kindle Unlimited is 10 dollars a month; 120 a year. I run a smallish library with a population of 19K. 19K times 120 is 2,280,000 dollars. My budget is 513K, and gets people movies and audiobooks as well, so I guess we’d have to add in netflix and audible memberships too, raising the prices even higher.

    The Kindle Unlimited subscription instead of library plan would only work in libraries who serve an area with 4275 people. Except it wouldn’t because of the variety of further services libraries offer, as you address.

  5. hmthompson83 says:

    This is the greatest thing I’ve ever read / you are the best ever.

  6. Jill Sodt says:

    Libraries are still one of the few places you can go where people are generally treated equally. Librarians see someone with a need and we help meet that need. I shudder to think of a world without libraries.

  7. Betsy says:

    Can Kindles fax? Believe it or not, my library is still sending hundreds of faxes each month for our library guests, who aren’t even registered users. We live in a rural area, and faxing is still a pretty common way to communicate around here. It’s simply one of the many services we offer to the community.

  8. LibraryLover says:

    I have an equally good cost-saving measure for strapped governments. Give everyone a gun and then we don’t need a police force anymore. Same logic.

  9. Love it, Ingrid! This one may be an elaboration on one of your points. Shoutout to my e-gov colleagues and friends at UMD for the original: http://www.plinternetsurvey.org/analysis/public-libraries-and-e-government

    “For the agencies and service providers, Kindle offers a community access point for public access technologies and the Internet to users who have no other access. Partnerships can also embed e-government services within the public library, a trusted and neutral community organization, potentially creating an integrated service environment that cuts across multiple agency services and benefits.”

  10. One of the wonderful things about Amazon is they are so dedicated to long term access. A book is no longer selling? No worries! Amazon saves all resources in a stable format that will be accessible for generations! They are also terrific at sharing this data with like-minded institutions.

  11. Jennie says:

    If nothing else, libraries have copies of Green Eggs and Ham, Lean In, and Twilight. Kindle unlimited, not so much

  12. Karen says:

    Kindle can’t provide kids with the chance to interact with a live miniature horse…For Free! (my library can!)

  13. Rodger says:

    I agree with most of it, and certainly want to keep libraries around. But I thought I’d mention, depending on what version of Kindle you get (Fire or not?) they are “just books” in much the same way libraries are “just buildings.” You can, in fact, learn to code, budget a checkbook, and provide a wide range of activities for all ages and ability levels.

    Kindle doesn’t (and certainly never should) replace libraries. However, Kindle (and iPad, and Windows tablets, etc) is a tool that libraries and other institutions should consider finding a spot for in their tool box. For example, I’d be all over an app from my local library that lets me check out e-material.

    • There’s plenty you can get from a Kindle, depending on what kind of a learner you are.
      Many libraries let you check out e-books. Mine has for ages. Tons of my patrons read their books on their phones and on their phones alone. I think it’s great. Wherever and however they read is fine.
      AND I’ve used iPads and a variety of apps in programs with children. They’re great tools for learning.
      iPads, a variety of tablets, and e-book readers are used in abundance in many libraries as educational tools.
      But there’s a difference between giving a person a device and leaving them to their own devices (get it?) AND leading an instructional class where a community learns together. Different people learn in different ways. I prefer a hands-on, instructional approach. Not everyone does.
      Oh, and my library lends you these devices for free: http://www.bklynlibrary.org/tablets We’re not even what you’d consider a wealthy library system.
      If you can afford a Kindle/iPad, that’s great! But remember that many can’t, and the library is here to help people cross that digital divide: http://www.secaucuslibrary.org/kindle-ereaders-now-available#.U81HKvldXTp

    • Diane says:

      I have a Kindle Fire, and the app I use most often is Overdrive (to borrow e-books from the library).

  14. amstapp says:

    You know what else I hear Kindles are really good at? Providing free tax assistance to low-income and elderly folk. Oh, and free meeting and study rooms!

  15. rockin123 says:

    Kindles totally allow people to connect in person and make new friends! Why have baby storytime when parents and their little ones can interact with others over their kindles. Such a savior not only to the children, but to the parents who are home with the babies (and about to lose their mind if they don’t get out to meet and interact with other grown ups).

  16. I wish these idiots weren’t positioning the Kindle in opposition to libraries. (You’re not one of the idiots – you’re just pointing out their idiocy.) They’re not really opposed. For fiction pleasure reading, my Kindle is so much more convenient even than paperbacks, and I read so much more. But I still depend on the library for finding me books worth reading, and to borrow ebooks from. And I still depend on my local library — and on my local LIBRARIANS — to help me with research, to find good books to read, to defend both my right to privacy and my freedom of speech.

    I think the core of the problem is that the idiots see libraries as archives of books and librarians as book-reshelving robots. If that were true, then getting everyone a Kindle would be a solution. But libraries are so much more than that: they are local memory, local history, a place to have knitting circles and to organize political protests, a place to go for help with finding a job or with taking care of a kitten or with learning to read.

    Even if you bought every person within the borders of the United States a Kindle and an unlimited Amazon subscription, libraries would still be essential as one of the things that make us civilized. They just might have fewer books on their shelves.

    • katofrafters says:

      Agreed. And the supposedly ‘unlimited’ subscription is still not going to replace even the majority of the books considering it’s narrow scope of offered titles: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/07/21/kindle-subscription-service-from-amazon-lacking-in-big-publishers.html

      And as an unfortunate note for anyone who lives in a country that doesn’t offer access to English language books, the kindle service is kind of nice. It’s far from the best way to cope, but it is something.

    • Denise Davis says:

      Amazon, many strengths, but no public library! Public libraries are agile community focused opportunity centers that use an ever-changing set of tools, technologies, and expertise to promote learning and success no matter what challenges face the user/community. Quite a mission–and not up Amazon’s ally. Relying on old stereotypes can be tempting when making public policy arguments–but it is never a wise idea.

  17. […] What A Librarian Looks Like” Abrams has done a fine job of tearing this nonsense to shreds on her blog. I […]

  18. Rebecca says:

    Kindles are super awesome at preserving local historic records, arranging them, making appropriate decisions for culturally sensitive materials (goodbye, NAGPRA!) and making them accessible and understandable to the public. Go, Kindle!

  19. kaitybgood says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Preach, sister.

  20. Our libraries here in CO Springs do more than just books. We have community gatherings, reading challenges, tours for Scouts, free classes on all sorts of stuff, a safe place for teens and tweens to gather after school, research help for all those NON-electronic resources (not everything is an e-book!!), free lectures for those who are still wanting to learn something new in their twilight and/or retirement years, job assistance, computer access for those who cannot afford it (to write resumes, do research, access email, etc.)…There is SO much we can do when we get out from behind a glowing screen and actually put our nose in a book, or magazine, or newspaper. You may not save as much money as you think if you get rid of libraries.

  21. […] Librarians and other defenders of open access and the public library were quick to respond. […]

  22. You’re right. I agree. Kindles are… better.

  23. Michelle says:

    Let’s look at the very simple point that libraries are just cheaper. NJ puts libraries as a line item on our property tax bill. My husband and I pay a COMBINED $54.00 a year for our library. That is almost 30% of a year long Amazon subscription, and that doesn’t even include the price of the device.

  24. Ariel says:

    This is seriously awesome – very well said. Definitely in my top 5 blog posts of all time! (doesn’t everyone have a top 5 list for that?)

  25. kaye grabbe says:

    Best response I’ve seen: then how about giving everyone in your community a garden hose and eliminating the fire department? I guess, just like the physical library, the Fire Dept. does SO much more.

  26. Dan C. says:

    Well said! For the record, I was a librarian in the NYC public realm for several years, but a few decades ago …and the money scares, layoffs and (thankfully) the continued fight never stop.

  27. […] we don’t just close libraries and all pay for these book subscriptions services. I really enjoyed Ingrid’s response to the suggestion by Tim Worstall. I actually wrote myself a note the other day to post about this issue, but I haven’t gotten […]

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